BLOOMINGTON, Texas — A Mennonite Disaster Service assessment team moved deeper into the devastating footprint of Hurricane Harvey Aug. 31 as they visited the town of Bloomington, southwest of Houston.
The impact of Harvey became more intense for the team as block after block of damage was evident in the town, according to MDS executive director Kevin King.
“There is hardly anyone here right now, but of those who are, some are sleeping outside on sofas under tarps,” he said.
County emergency operations officials reported there are 500 to 600 homes damaged and in need of everything from stringing tarps across roofs to removal of debris and gutting interiors.
Already an economically stressed community, Bloomington and Victoria County took the full force of Harvey’s wind as it moved north toward Houston, where it dumped trillions of gallons of rain, causing catastrophic flooding.
“There is plenty of need in this community,” Danny Garcia, county commissioner for Victoria County, told the assessment team during a meeting at the county’s emergency operations center.
Garcia said the west side of the community is poor. He is concerned the people there might get lost in the shuffle as disaster response groups gear up to begin the mammoth task of cleaning up after Harvey.
“I’m here because this is where my heart is,” Victoria County volunteer coordinator Linda May said. “For the people who can’t help themselves, I just want to give them hope.”
Hope might be in short supply as the enormity of the situation reveals itself in Bloomington and the wider region. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and continue to wait to return to their communities.
Victoria County officials have asked MDS to begin assisting them with cleanup in Bloomington.
“We’re ordering in teams,” King said. “The number-one priority is tarping roofs to protect the homes from more damage. The wind damage was tremendous.
“Second will be cleanup of debris around the houses for sanitary reasons.”
Once debris is curbside, Federal Emergency Management Agency contractors will collect and dispose it.
“Third, we will start gutting houses. There is a lot of mucking out to do,” King said.
MDS cleanup crews were expected to arrive in Bloomington as early as Sept. 2. Volunteers from Nebraska are bringing a track loader and mini-excavator for picking up debris.
King figures the cleanup effort could take two to three weeks or more.
To help MDS finance the volunteer emergency response teams or to volunteer, visit mds.mennonite.net.